In case you are out of the loop, ROFLCon 2008 is a day long conference out in Boston where they bring together the owners of the current internet meme phenomenons to talk about the state of internet culture.
It’s a very interesting topic and I think, relevant to understanding how you can build a community around something. IBM is talking about building a ‘Smart SOA Community’ and through ROFLCon, we can try to get an understanding of what makes something popular and even more interesting what makes a user want to contribute content.
Getting hits to a site isn’t too hard with the proper marketing campaign, but how can you inspire those visitors to use their own resources for your benefit. That’s the secret that we are seeing unfold in this domain with sites like ICanHasCheezBurger or lolcats.
Unfortunately, I think we are in the very early stages of this phenominon to be able to describe the traits in an accurate “Check the boxes off a list and win” manner. Theres a lot of very similar competitors to the cheezburger guys, yet people prefer to stick with that brand. Why is that?
Well, they all share a simplicity in their user interfaces and the ability to rapidly response and shift to the demands of the user base. They are all extremely interactive and encourage participation from their users, but they don’t demand it. They all started out extremely small with a core-following and we able to encourage word-of-mouth growth. This is likely because the element of humor allows for simple passing from person to person.
In addition, the owners themselves had a clear vision of what they were trying to accomplish and didn’t waver from that goal. They all seem to have worked in the IT industry in boring day jobs that led to the creation of the idea. They were also very passionate about their site, largely because they knew they had to be able to generate most of the content themselves.
They are also very good at providing a single purpose to their users. If you go to lolcats, you get lolcats. You don’t get overwhelmed with features that are never used. They don’t fragment their communities over a ton of options. You’ve got a few specialized tasks and that’s it.
Anyway, I thought ROFLCon was just going to be guys laughing over the latest Chuck Norris quote but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll see its an interesting experiment on internet communities and includes some very good discussions on emerging topics that the Web 2.0 enterprise community will be having soon.